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Shifting the needle in youth employability through demand-led training

frustrated employees at their desks with the tech equipment

Demand-led training development is a key solution when it comes to ensuring that those who desperately need jobs can find them, while matching with companies that seek specific skills.

Currently, we have a situation in which companies cannot find employees with the skills they need, even as thousands of youths are being upskilled each year, writes Jessica Hawkey.

Taking this a step further is work-integrated learning, which makes it possible for companies that provide skills developments in a live environment, like us, to present candidates to the company that already have the relevant experience – a process closer to an internal promotion.

Currently, we have a situation in which companies cannot find employees with the skills they need, even as thousands of youths are being upskilled each year. There is a need to align skills development with the qualifications that companies require for specific roles. We must have an agile, skilled, and adaptable workforce, as this is a critical objective for the private sector. This is especially true in an environment in which South Africa is facing growing economic challenges and rampant youth unemployment.

A 2022 report from the Department of Higher Education and Training, Skills Supply and Demand in South Africa, found that South Africa, overall, experiences a large imbalance between the demand for skills, and the supply.

According to this paper, several workers are either under-qualified or overqualified for their current jobs, and there are mismatches between a worker’s qualifications and the level of prowess required for their jobs.

PwC points out that South Africa has spent between 5.8% and 6.3% of gross domestic product on education to redress apartheid inequalities.

Although this amount is one of the highest in the world, the spending has not led to the expected economic returns. The PwC, citing the World Bank’s Human Capital Index, says that an average child in South Africa will not reach half of their productive potential which they could have if they had full health and education.

Demand-led skills training in a live environment is the best solution to this impasse, benefiting not only work seekers, but also companies because it resolves a specific skills gap, and puts the commercial objective front and centre for training. It allows, in our experience, the employers the ability to focus on more strategic elements of the business and identify further areas in which they need to develop a pipeline of talent.

It reduces pressure on HR to recruit, reduces pressure on hiring managers to oversee, and reduces time to productivity of team members.

One step beyond

As companies’ requirements change, so too does the way skills are taught. Not only is there a need to amend course curriculum to adjust for a specific necessity, but we must also move towards a more experiential training environment – giving students a hands-on experience in a real-life environment. This shift towards doing rather than hearing how things should be done.

As Samelane points out, traditional teaching measures are still the most predominant. However, there is a distinctive shift towards immersive experiential learning, which prepares students for real-life challenges. Such immersive training also caters for those students who learn better in this real-life, or live, environment. It allows for better understanding of the subject matter, increased engagement, and motivation as well as better retention of the information.

We have already seen evidence that immersive training also enables the development of softer skills, enabling those entering the workforce to engage with their peers and other colleagues in a way that fits in with the company’s culture. It also means that they will learn confidence to put their ideas forward, which adds a diversity of voices to the company, enabling them growth and creative ways to problem-solving.

As we continue the move to an increasingly technology driven world, these tools become ever more important. Training needs to be done close to the source because the rate of change in tech happens at a pace at which traditional learning can simply not keep up. We need to produce lifelong learners.

The needle is finally shifting to move away from supporting training for training’s sake to the actual impact made, a shift that will be made through partnerships across all stakeholders including trusted partners who have been making an impact when it comes to livelihoods changed forever and not just the number of people trained. This will stand South Africa in good stead as we seek to move with technological trends while also creating jobs and benefiting the economy.

This article was published on IOL on 14 January 2024

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